Getting to Graps with the Grippling

April 28, 2011

I started attending Muay Thai and Grappling classes about 6 weeks ago and I’ve shown an uncharacteristic commitment to this new hobby that I hope will crossover into other areas of my life. The Muay Thai class is busy and many of the people there I broadly suspect are more into it for the intensity of the exercise than training in techniques to knock fuck out of their fellow man, which is fair enough. There is no sparring in the Muay Thai class due to our being beginners and therefore not nearly experienced enough to not hurt one another. The Grappling class, by contrast, is smaller and is attended only by men. I remain easily the least experienced and least skilled in the class and I know this because the class involves a lot of sparring or “rolling”, as it were, and there really isn’t any other way to teach or learn these techniques without a fully practical approach. I’m humble enough that I don’t mind being utterly tooled every night I attend but I’ve found myself perusing instructional videos online in an effort to improve my technique outside of class and last week I experienced something of a breakthrough when I managed to pull off a move I’d only watched at home.

The first thing I had to learn in the class was to overcome a longtime habit of not lying on top of men. When trying to begin starting positions in my instructor’s guard (i.e. between his legs with him underneath me) I was constantly urged to “keep it tight” as I was committing the error of leaving too much space between our respective bodies. Needless to say, such early lessons left something of an impression on me. The opening for cheap gay jokes, however, was too easy and too obvious there and it was one that I was hesitant to exploit, lest I came across as some dickhead that wasn’t taking the class seriously enough. I also noticed, bizarrely, that both the grappling instructor and top grappling student smelled really good. It wasn’t so much cologne or fragrance as their clothes being exceedingly clean and freshly laundered, a reassuring soapy aroma to please the nostrils as the weight of their bodies pressed down upon my chest and their forearms tightened around my throat. I now make sure to shower before each class, mindful of reciprocating this courtesy, and especially because the next move I want to try will probably involve me having to sit on my opponent’s face. Like I said, the jokes are too obvious, so much so that you can rest assured they have already been done and done again in that world and you’d be bringing nothing new to the table to try to charm anyone with them. On the other hand, I was pleased to have the pervasive homo-erotic tension broken when the instructor was the first to indulge in such humour a few weeks ago. A classmate had mentioned that the instructor’s protective cup had painfully pressed against him during some demonstration which prompted the reply, “I’m not wearing a cup, I’m just excited”.

These two young women are not in my class.

Alas, following the breakthrough lesson, my next visit to the class was a demoralizing one in which I was consistently and effortlessly dominated by everyone else and for the first time it bothered me, feeling as it did like a step back. I still lack the physical instincts for much of what’s involved, particularly the wrestling-orientated takedowns, and my short, inflexible limbs are proving quite the obstacle to grappling prowess (e.g. despite knowing how to perform a triangle choke with the legs, reaching them properly around my opponent’s head and shoulder proved clumsy and ineffective). My wife has posited that the frustration I felt after this last lesson is a typical reaction of the male psyche in the context of physical competition with other men, something I’m also rather unfamiliar with, having never participated in any sports whatsoever until now. In short, I have to re-acquire the patience and humility I felt when I first started and continue researching as much as I can. That said, I also have a bad habit of following YouTube grappling and BJJ links from beginners instructional stuff to content featuring world-level competitive matches with absolute masters of the art like Marcelo Garcia, Roger Gracie, Ronaldo Souza, etc. which is a bit like a complete learner driver watching Formula 1 for hints and tips. Still, this remains a fresh adventure that’s a shitload of fun and with that, I’m off to practice the not-at-all-sinister-sounding rear naked choke!



  1. Think a little piss just came out. You just fucked the funny right out the park. Wigfield scores a homer!

  2. Why, thank you.

    Let me recommend Kegel exercises for you, my man, tighten that up.

  3. Great read, Wigz. It’s heartwarming to know that you all look out for each other on the odor front. For some reason I thought that subjecting each other to your respective stenches was part of the process. As well as a motivator to get better. Like, “I’ll be GODDAMNED if I’m gonna let this guy stuff my face in his knee pit today…”

    So you’re telling us a lot about grappling, but what of the MUAY THAI? How “Tony Jaa” are you at this point?

  4. I’ve been practicing somersault-kicking the lights out of lampposts but it’s proving tricky.

  5. The Muay Thai is coming along but I find kicks difficult. I think that’s down to a lifetime of hitherto not learning how to swing my hips or stretch my legs. Punches are not too bad, I think I’ve pretty much learned how to jab, cross and hook and now it’s a matter of throwing them faster and with more power (without compromising the technique). The Muay Thai classes are significantly busier than the grappling so there’s less time and opportunity for individual instruction but they’re still fun.

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